A look at how the federal government shutdown will affect researchers, students

The federal shutdown that has closed national parks, stalled services and furloughed 800,000 government employees naturally raises questions for those at Case Western Reserve who rely on federal support for research and education.

The shutdown began at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, and will continue until Congress and the Obama Administration agree on a spending plan. How long it will last is uncertain. For perspective, the last federal government shutdown lasted 21 days, from mid-December 1995 to early January 1996.

Until it is resolved, the university will monitor developments and offer updates as appropriate.

For researchers

The university’s Office of Research Administration reports that the shutdown should not have a major impact on research if the closure is relatively brief—meaning, weeks.

Work on active projects should continue unless they depend on access to federal facilities or personnel, according to Suzanne M. Rivera, the university’s associate vice president for research.

That said, proposal submissions may be affected. The federal website Grants.gov will be operational, but the National Science Foundation’s FastLane site and the National Institutes of Health’s eRA Commons site will not validate proposals. But, Rivera added, researchers should continue to submit proposals until advised otherwise.

Also, federal agency staff will not be available to approve no-cost extension requests, grant transfers, re-budgeting approvals or other actions requiring agency approval, Rivera said.

“As long as the system is still open,” she said, “researchers should submit NIH proposals as they normally would but not expect responses until after the shutdown lifts.”

Faculty are encouraged to contact the Office of Research Administration (or the medical school’s Office of Grants and Contracts) with questions.

For students

The shutdown should have minimal impact on students and their financial aid and work/study programs, according to Kristie Lillibridge, associate director for student services in the financial aid office.

Most federal processing and call centers continue to function, she said, so the processing of Federal Direct Loans and Pell Grants should continue on their normal schedules.

“Graduate student stipends awarded as part of federal grants to the university will continue to get paid during the shutdown, just like any other budgeted expense on an awarded federal grant,” Rivera said.

Also, students can still contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Information Center or Case Western Reserve’s financial aid office (216.368.4530) with any questions about their aid. In addition, all loan-servicing centers will remain open to assist students and for any repayment or consolidation questions, she said.